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Riddle of missing library book solved after 70 years

7 July 2022

The mystery of a book that went missing from a Fife library for 70 years has been solved … thanks to the borrower getting in touch.

Librarians who were recently posted a replacement copy – along with a cryptic note – have since received a follow-up letter explaining how the book went AWOL.

Staff at Kirkcaldy Library have now written to the 84-year-old woman who borrowed the crime thriller as a teenager, thanking her for the new copy.

The substitute version of Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral, sent by Muriel MacIntyre (nee Millar) of Livingston, is being given pride of place on the library’s returns desk.

Having first posted a brief note signed only with her initials, Mrs Macintyre sent a more detailed letter after the story gained widespread media attention.

In the letter, Mrs Macintyre, recalls reading voraciously as a teenager when she was growing up in Kirkcaldy in a home she shared with her grandparents, aunt and uncle and two siblings.

“I regularly escaped to the library, with its very helpful staff, and read all the Rudyard Kipling books, all the Biggles books and most of Agatha Christie’s,” recalled Mrs Macintyre.

“One day, when I was 13 years old, I heard granny answer the door bell. A young lady asked about a book, but granny said her granddaughter would have no interest in a book about ‘funerals’,

“I overheard this in the kitchen but it’s only lately, with Poirot being on TV, that I realised that I must have borrowed the book.”

When the three siblings took up jobs away from home, Mrs Macintyre’s books remained in the house in Milton Road – but were not seen again after her aunt moved to London in 1953.

“I’m so sorry the book went off to London,” wrote Mrs Macintyre, whose letter also reveals a fascinating personal story that includes a dramatic evacuation from Singapore with her parents, brother and sister in 1941.

Mrs Macintyre’s uncle, Gordon Ryrie, was an eminent surgeon and medical superintendent of Sungai Buloh Leprosy Settlement in Malaya, who returned to Kirkcaldy after the Second World War.

“We were somewhat surprised to receive the book and the note, but are delighted with this latest plot twist,” says Venue Manager Helen Stevenson, of cultural charity OnFife, which runs the library.

“It’s been great to find out more about the missing book and Mrs Macintyre’s fascinating family history – we were very keen to let her know how appreciative we are of her kind gesture.”